Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch makes the top-selling police vehicle in the United States, the Police Interceptor Utility. 

The SUV — a souped-up version of the Ford Explorer with a "cop motor, cop tires, cop suspension, and cop shocks" — alone accounted for 50% of the law enforcement vehicle market last year. Ford showed off the 2020 model to police departments across Chicagoland Monday at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet as part of a nationwide demonstration tour.

The Chicago Assembly Plant, on the banks of the Calumet River, recently started production of the 2020 Police Interceptor Utility, which has a standard hybrid engine that Ford estimates will save police departments more than $3,500 a year in gas costs, at an average price of $2.75 per gallon.

"We started production in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and agencies should start receiving them later in the summer," said Gregory Ebel, assistant brand manager for Ford Police Vehicles. "We feel this 2020 utility with a hybrid powertrain is the right fit for law enforcement."

Ebel said police officers typically spend half a shift in idle, whether watching for speeders or filling out paperwork, and the new model saves more gas and money while reducing CO emissions by using a lithium-ion hybrid battery to power electrical equipment without burning any gas. The new Police Interceptor Utility thus may require fewer stops to fill up, keeping officers on the road, he said.

The SUV gets an estimated 24 miles per gallon, as compared to 17 miles per gallon for the previous version.

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"In California, where gas is $4 plus, you're saving $5,000 a year," he said. "That's $25,000 over a five-year period. It really pays for itself."

The pursuit-rated vehicle is more fuel efficient without sacrificing performance, Ebel said. Its 3.3-liter V6 hybrid engine placed second in the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tests, trailing only the Police Interceptor Utility Ecoboost engine overall in lap times, top speed and zero-to-100 mph acceleration.

It also met a 75-mph rear-impact crash test and has features like a rear camera that lets officers see behind them, autonomous braking that can be switched off when needed, and perimeter surveillance that can tell if someone approaching the vehicle is a potential threat or just a passing jogger. It will automatically lock the doors, roll up the windows and sound chimes to alert the officers.

"It's an added layer of protection," Ebel said. "We're delivering new technology that keeps our officers safe."

The sprawling 2.8 million-square-foot automotive plant on Torrence Avenue and 130th Street no longer makes the Police Interceptor Sedan, which has been phased out along with the Taurus, on which it was based. Ford's current lineup includes the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan, based off the Ford Fusion, and the F-150 Police Responder.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.